Thursday, 23 December 2010

Tommy Sheridan guilty of perjury

Tommy Sheridan’s conviction today for perjury was utterly inevitable.
Six years ago, as leader of the Scottish Socialist Party, he proposed to sue a tabloid newspaper over stories he knew to be true and demanded that I and our party went along with his lies. All his closest friends and political allies of 20 years urged him not to take such a reckless course of action.
All those who have been falsely denounced by him and his allies as liars, plotters, perjurers and political backstabbers have been cleared.
The idea that there was a conspiracy involving Rupert Murdoch, Lothian and Borders Police and the SSP is complete nonsense. Yet this is the narrative that Tommy Sheridan and his supporters pedalled for the past 4 years.
By his actions over the past six years Tommy Sheridan has disgraced himself and negated his political contribution to the socialist cause. History will now record that he did more harm to the socialist cause in Scotland than any good he ever did it. And that astonishing conclusion would not have been thought possible at the height of the poll tax struggle he led so well, or during his early period in the Scottish Socialist Party and Scottish Parliament.
The SSP reaffirms that our aim is to defend the interests of working people, the millions against the millionaires and to work for a socialist transformation of society in the interests of the majority. We can at last now draw a line under this awful episode and move on. In this time of savage attacks by the rich against the poor, Scotland more than ever needs a strong left wing socialist party that can be trusted.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Letter to The Herald on Afghanistan's occupation

Here's a letter I sent to The Herald on 4/12/2010:

Dear Sir
David Pratt's excellent article on Britain's occupation of Afghanistan in Fridays Herald [3/12/2010] records that 'Our forces have now outlasted the Russians'. This is of course no cause for celebration. We have after all missed a dozen previous deadlines for withdrawal during the last nine years and 57 days.
The first was set by the UK Defence Secretary John Reid, now of this parish, who famously forecast we would be out, and home, uninjured by Christmas 2002. Worse than that failed promise, as David Pratt rightly acknowledges, our occupation is now hated by 33million Afghans every bit as much as the Soviet one before it. And why?
Perhaps figures released last week by Channel Four News provide some clue. They showed a 163% increase in the number of civilian war wounded in Afghanistan over the past year. The second poorest country in the world is suffering excruciating misery and chaos with no end in sight. No wonder then the old man whom David Pratt interviewed screams out such hatred for UK and US forces occupying his country. They 'come, shoot, kill and destroy' just as the Soviets did before them he said.
It is impossible to under state the scale of our failure in Afghanistan if as the British Government claim we 'went in with the best of intentions hoping to deprive Islamic terrorism of a base and sanctuary and bring some kind of peace and stability'. It is not good enough to conclude as David Pratt does however that only 'political blundering stirred up resentment towards the occupying foreigner'. The truth is we invaded a country guilty of no crime. We have occupied it now, against the express wishes of its people, for nearly 10 years. We installed one of the most incompetent and corrupt regimes in the world to run it. Some 50,000 innocent Afghans have been killed and countless wounded and severely injured. So where is this peace and stability? Rather than deprive Islamic fundamentalism of a base we now provided it with a 'accelerant' to fuel its fires. Millions of civilians provide daily sanctuary for the Taliban who are rubbing their hands waiting for a US military defeat just as they did with the Soviets.
It is clear Britain and America paid little heed to the Russian experience. Their arrogant imperialist attitude with its lingering and misplaced belief in technological military superiority are leading inexorably to the same painfully obvious retreat of the Soviet experience in 1989.
The people of Scotland meanwhile have continued to make it clear in poll after poll after poll that they want no part of it and wish to see our troops brought home now and this senseless occupation brought to an end.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Well done to Susan Philipz on winning this year's Turner prize

I don't know many artists and I cant really relate to the Turner Prize. To be honest I don't really understand the art that is exhibited in it.
But I was absolutely delighted to watch this years award ceremony on Channel Four News live from the Tate Museum in London. Delighted and thrilled because this years winner is my old friend Susan Philipz. She is now a world renowned artist.
Susan and I were in the Labour Party Young Socialists and Militant together in the West of Scotland in the 1980s and 90s. She certainly doesn't fit the image I have of Turner Prize winners and that's a good thing. The last time I saw was at a branch meeting in Pollok. She was with her then partner Gary Stevenson aka Gary Lewis the actor. [He played Billy Elliot's dad in the film]. She and Gary were exceptionally talented artistically. I am thrilled to bits for her in winning this award.
I understand she lives and works in Berlin now but I feel happy to know her and to see her enjoy such success. Well done comrade Susan.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Scotland bill: further concessions on the road to independence or buttressing the union?

While I welcome all the extra powers the Scottish Parliament can wring out of Westminster I remain convinced that only a fully independent republic will serve Scotland’s needs.
The Calman Commission recommendations which underpin the Scotland Bill published this week are in truth little to do with extending Holyrood's powers - they do allow monies raised in Stamp Duty and any new landfill taxes to remain here, but the additional powers are indeed very minor extensions - as their central purpose is to make Holyrood more accountable to the electorate for its expenditure decisions.
The power to raise income tax, the Bills central proposal, already exists via the referendum held in 1997. They have of course never been used and the reasons are simple enough. The prospect of paying higher taxes in Scotland compared to the rest of the UK is not something voters would relish. Indeed in the last decade only the possibility of reducing taxes here by 3p in the pound have been contemplated by the four neo-liberal parties in control of the purse strings at Holyrood.
The recent fiasco over the SNP's decision to let the current 3p income tax varying power lapse was like watching two bald me fighting over a comb as none of the major parties in Holyrood have any intention of using these laws.
What is required is a Scottish Government which takes on the wealthy, that raises the taxes of the super rich through measures such as the Scottish Service Tax - the SSP's income based alternative to the hated Council tax. Of course the Scotland Bill traps any Government at Holyrood intent on implementing such measures as it cuts the current block grant from Westminster by up to 35%. So Westminster giveth and Westminster taketh away. And that of course is the rub. Indeed it was always the aim of the Calman Commission.
The SSP meanwhile supports an economic policy which meets the needs of the millions not the millionaires. We recognise that in this day and age only a fully independent Scottish republic can deliver that.

Monday, 29 November 2010

SSP leaflet in Polish - Szkockiej Partii Socjalistycznej

Szkockiej Partii Socjalistycznej
Powiedz NIE cieciom budzetowym!
NIE dla ciec Konserwatywnych Demokratow (CON/DEM)!
NIE dla ciec Partii Pracy (Labour)
NIE dla ciec Szkockiej Partii Narodowej (SNP)
Poinformowano nas, ze UK jest na skraju bankructwa. Dlugi panstwowe siegaja 1-go
tryliona funtow, a roczna splata bedzie dochodzic do 46 bilionow. Wszystkie partie
rzadzace mowia nam, ze ten poziom pozyczek nie jest precedensem i ciecia sa konieczne.
Nie sa. Poziom dlugu jest nizszy ni1 w innych krajach o podobnym stopniu rozwoju.
W okresie bezposrednio po II Wojnie Swiatowej dlugi UK były du1o wyzsze od obecnego,
ze wzgledu na koniecznosc ogromnych inwestycjii w Narodowy Fundusz Zdrowia (NHS) i
niezbedna pomoc socjalna.
Kto wpedzil nas w kryzys?
W kryzys 21-go wieku nie wprowadzili nas ludzie pracy. To nie sektor publiczny splajtowal.
Doprowadzila do niego zachlannosc bankierow sektora prywatnego. Gonili, jak w amoku,
za wlasnym sukcesem finansowym, nie liczac sie ze skutkami. Pazerni, bogaci
moznowladcy, zyjacy w swiecie innym od naszego, wpedzili nas w gigantyczne,
korporacyjne dlugi, poniewa1 stracili poczucie rzeczywistosci.
Jak szaleni ciagneli korzysci, wsrod chaosu spekulacji, rosnacych cen na rynku
nieruchomosci, zamknieci w zlotej klatce-twierdzy, która sami dla siebie stworzyli.
Ale rzeczywistosc zburzyla twierdze, jak zawsze to robi. Teraz okazuje sie, ze to my, zwykli
ludzie, mamy za to placic.
Kogo partie rzadzace proponuja ukarac za te zachlannosc, glupote i
lekkomyslnosc?
Sprawcow? Bankierow, którzy obdarowali sie sami kolosalnymi bonusami z publicznych
pieniedzy? NIE! Torysi i Liberalni Demokraci chca zabrac 83 miliony funtow z uslug
publicznych (które chcieliby sprywatyzowac). Nowa Partia Pracy sugeruje ciecia wysokosci
43 milionow, równie1 w sektorze publicznym. Szkocka Partia Narodowa proponuje rabunek
podobnej kwoty , jak powyzej, z uslug publicznych. Zamiast zmusic do placenia winnych
kryzysu finansistow, rzadaja pieniedzy od zwyklych, szarych obywateli. To znaczy, ze
najbiedniejsi,czesto potrzebujacy pomocy w podstawowych aspektach zycia, maja placic za
balagan, którego nie zrobili.
Ciecia oznaczaja deprawacje biednych, destrukcje lokalnych spolecznosci i
dezintegracje spoleczna!
Powiedz NIE cieciom! Twój głos jest wazny! Walcz przeciwko niesprawiedliwosciom
poczynionym przez bankowych i politycznych kryminalistow! Stan razem z milionami
brytyjczykow, , którzy chca odeprzec atak na ich poziom zycia! Niech zainspiruja Cie
przyklady Francji, Hiszpanii, Grecji, Niemiec, USA!
Wstap do SSP – Szkockiej Partii Socjalistycznej !

Friday, 19 November 2010

BlindCraft workers win six months reprieve

I was delighted to attend the Blindcraft lobby of Edinburgh City Council this morning particularly as it resulted in a partial success for the workers/campaigners involved.
The SNP Group backed down over plans to close the factory and send 70 blind and disabled staff onto the dole. Edinburgh City Council officials had prepared a report recommending closure. Their decision was based on trying to save £700,000 a year from the subsidies it presently makes to Blindcraft's Craigmillar operations. Late last night however the SNP Group, which runs the administration in coalition with the Lib Dems, decided to opt for short time working at the factory instead of complete closure. Their decision came after they had learned the Labour Group was to table such an amendment to the officers report.
So today at 9.30am we had the spectacle of both SNP and Labour Councillors leafleting the lobbyists -rather than the other way round- with details of the same amendment/alternative to closure.
SO why the eleventh hour change of heart by the SNP? Could their decision to move to a three day week for six months at the Craigmillar site be anything to do with the terribly damaging PR such a closure decision might bring and the imminent Scottish Parliament elections?
Either way the workers at Blindcarft and their union The National League for the Blind and Disabled/Community welcomed the reprieve. At least it lifts the immediate threat of closure they reasoned. However they are under no illusions they will have to return to a campaign footing after Christmas as they come to terms with 3 day working and gear up for the battle ahead.

* Come and hear Blindcraft campaigner Hannah Lister outline their case at the SSP public meeting on Monday.
Public meeting - 'Fight Back against the cuts'.
Monday 22nd Nov at 7pm
Kirkgate Community Centre [Foot of Leith Walk]
Speakers Colin Fox, SSP national spokesman,
Raphie De Santos, socialist economist,
Phil McGuiness, Edin Univ student
and Hannah Lister, Blindcraft.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Join the Blindcraft lobby

Workers from the Blindcraft bed factory in Craigmillar will be lobbying
Edinburgh City Council on Thursday morning in protest at plans to close the
facility and sack 70 people. Blindcraft employs people with visual
impairment and other disabilities. The company has suffered falling sales in
recent years as the recession bites and fewer beds and mattresses are being
bought. They have enjoyed considerable funding support from the City
Council. However this year the Lib Dem/SNP Coalition wants to cut £750,000
from Blindcraft's budget. This would leave them unable to trade. A Council
report, to be considered on Thursday, will recommend closure of the factory
and sacking all 70 employees.
I visited the factory in Peffer Place, Craigmillar, on Friday and spoke to
Marlene and Nicky who work in the sales department. They explained their
anxieties for the future and I pledged the full support of the Scottish
Socialist Party to keeping the place open and saving the nobs. I also
spoke on the telephone to Fraser Queen who is the spokesman for the campaign
to keep the factory open. He has been working for Blindcraft for 22 years.
He explained that some people have been there for more than 40 years. He is
understandably concerned about the future for all 70 employees. His union
'Community' has been busy examining alternative options to closure. He
pointed to the rapidly deteriorating employment market and stressed that
people with disabilities face a far harder chance of securing employment
than most. That's why it is so important these jobs are protected at
Craigmillar.
I assured Fraser and his colleagues the SSP would help in any way we could.
He welcomed our offer to come along to the City Chambers on Thursday morning
to support their lobby of Councillors and to ensure these jobs are saved.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

SSP to hold series of public meetings in Edinburgh against the cuts

Both Edinburgh branches of the SSP have asked me to speak at public meetings they have arrange this month against the Governments public spending cuts.
The SSP is committed to public services. We see the current levels of public service provision to be inadequate to cater for the needs of the population and so we certainly will not support any attempt to cut back these services nor sack public sector workers. As far as I am concerned the Governments plans to hack £85bn off our public service budget and sack 500,000 public sector workers are utterly unacceptable. The naked class attacks by public schoolboys like Cameron, Clegg and Osbourne who want to make working class people pay for a crisis caused by greedy bankers must be resisted. As usual both New Labour and the SNP are about as much use as a chocolate tea pot. Instead of opposing the Tories cuts agenda both these parties propose alternative cuts of their own!
The greedy bankers and the rich refuse to accept responsibility for a crisis they caused and they wish to inflict severe pain on working people. My experience today campaigning on Princes Street against the cuts showed me the huge public opposition there is to this deceit of the bankers. Its not a question of will working people fightback against the unfairness of all this more a question of where it begins and when.
The SSP in Edinburgh will be taking our case to the public with open meetings in St Leonards on Thursday 18th November [7pm in Nelson Halls Community Centre] and in Leith on Monday 22nd November [7pm in the Kirkgate Community Centre]. Further details of speakers etc will follow soon.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Scotland: a serial human rights offender

Don't believe a word Kenny McAskill says, the Scottish Justice system doesn't get human rights. It ignores judgements of the European Court of Human Rights [ECHR] with abandon. I remember sitting in the Court of Appeal in Edinburgh in 2003 I think it was listening to the case Napier vs The Lord Advocate wherein a former remand prisoner at Glasgow's Barlinnie jail successfully argued that the Scottish Executive had breached his human rights by forcing him to 'slop-out' [urinate and defecate into a plastic bucket] despite a ruling some years earlier by the European Court of Human Rights that such practices were now illegal. Only the prospect of paying out tens of millions of pounds of public money in compensation to thousands of other prisoners led the then Justice Secretary Jim Wallace to finally end this sickening practice.
You would have thought that lesson would have taught Scotland's legal establishment they needed to comply with international human rights legislation but not a bit of it.
Last week a ruling in the UK Supreme Court in London summarily rejected pleas by the Scottish judicial establishment to deny legal representation to suspects held in police custody. The Cadder case forced Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny McAskill to introduce emergency legislation to the Scottish Parliament the next day - legislation, it must be pointed out, which the Scottish Human Rights Commissioner Professor Allan Miller was not even consulted on and which he believes actually makes things worse and is a further breach of ECHR articles. These new laws were not introduced by McAskill because he was keen to ensure everyone gets legal advice, no, they were hurriedly enacted for fear of millions more compensation being paid out.
This week - I wonder if you can see a pattern forming here - Scotland suffered its third European defeat when via Westminster David Cameron this time had to anounce that 70,000 citizens in Britains jails [including 7,000 in Scotland] would now have their democratic right to vote returned to them because the current practise of denying them it is another breach of ECHR.
Of course all this extension of human rights has been just the signal the reactionaries in the Tory Party, Labour Party and SNP needed to start screaming 'blue murder' about Europe interfering in our wonderful justice system. Aye right! No wonder so many people stress the need to get SSP MSP's back into Holyrood!

* I was a member of the Scottish Parliaments Justice 2 Committee between 2003-2007.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

'The case for socialism' returns to Fettes

Three years ago I was invited to speak at Fettes College in Edinburgh the prestigious private school. I was asked to deliver a lecture on 'The case for socialism' to the schools 5th and 6th year pupils. As I recall I took my SSP colleague Johanna Dind with me as I was keen to show her round the 'alma mater' of our then Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Edinburgh has the dubious distinction, I remember telling her apologetically, of sending more of our youngsters to private school than any other city in Britain. The rest of the UK struggles to believe it but a quarter of all pupils here attend fee paying schools. I assure you it is true, 23% of primary and 25% of secondary school kids attend the dozen or more private schools like Fettes to be found here.
I always jump at the chance to present the SSP's case for socialism at schools throughout Scotland. As regular readers of this blog will know I particularly enjoyed speaking to students at my old school Our Lady's High in Motherwell this year. With private school visits I always feel like I am bringing news from the outside world.
This week I received another invitation from Fettes to return in February an give another lecture. Mr McDowall, the teacher who arranges my visit, was kind enough to say the first lecture was very popular indeed and he'd like me back to again deliver the case for socialism. It's certainly not something Tony Blair could do.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Say no to cuts; Tory cuts, Labour cuts or SNP cuts. Protest this Saturday

The Scottish Trade Union Congress [STUC] has arranged a protest march and rally against the £86bn of cuts to our public services which Tory Chancellor George Osbourne will announce on Wednesday.
The STUC event entitled 'There is a better way' will take place in Edinburgh this Saturday [23rd October]. The march and rally will offer people the opportunity to come together and protest against the austerity measures proposed by all 4 of the establishment parties, but principally the CON DEM Government coalition. Tens of thousands of trade unionists and other are expected to attend.
The Scottish Socialist Party is opposed to all these cuts. We simply do not accept they are necessary. They will have a devastating impact on the lives of millions of working people who rely on those services. Working people are being held responsible for crimes they did not commit. There are better ways of tackling the national debt than cutting services to the vulnerable. These debts were, lets not forget it, run up after the Government bailed out reckless and greedy bankers.
Come along and join the SSP contingent on Saturday. We will be there with our banners. The march assembles at 11.00am in East Market Street [beside Waverley station] and proceeds along Princes Street to a rally at the Ross Bandstand at 12.30pm.
www.thereisabetterway.org

Friday, 15 October 2010

The blatant injustice behind the cuts will be resisted

The British people have a long and proud history of defeating repression, tyranny and injustice. They stood up to Hitler in World War Two and defeated Thatcher’s poll tax in 1991 by invoking an inspiring spirit of resistance against seemingly insurmountable forces. And it’s just a well because they need to call on those traditions once again to defeat those behind the unprecedented and brutal cuts proposed for our public services in these countries.

When you stand back from discussions like the one BBC Scotland broadcast last night where Glen Campbell quizzed an invited studio audience on where the axe should fall you realise there’s an enormous injustice at the heart of this debate. It is the people, the masses, the vast majority, who are being forced by the elite, the rich, landowners, factory owners, bank owners and those who ‘own’ our politicians to pay for this crisis. As usual the hired ‘commentariat’ cannot see ‘the wood for the trees’. They are apparently oblivious to the fact the victims of this economic crime are again being punished by its perpetrators.

Neither Glen Campbell nor Brian Taylor asked the one question on everyone’s lips, namely, ‘who is in favour of these cuts?

I mean who says they are inevitable, who says ‘there is no alternative’? Lets look at the facts.

The UK Government ran up debts, we are told, of £580bn after spending £1.3trillion bailing out the banks, £100bn on a second generation of nuclear weapons [of mass destruction], £100bn invading and occupying innocent countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, £600bn on ill advised Private Finance Initiative [PFI] contracts which mean for example that a £300m hospital such as Edinburgh’s new Royal Infirmary actually costs £900m and in granting tax cuts to the obscenely wealthy. All these decisions were hugely unpopular. None of them enjoyed the support of the public yet we, the people, our opinions apparently counting for nothing in this debate, must pick up the tab.

The economic recession [the possibility of which Gordon Brown foolishly claimed to have banished forever] occurred alongside an unprecedented financial collapse. Together they led to the current political crisis. All four establishment parties in Scotland backed those decisions to one degree or another and all four now clamber for cuts in the very services working people rely on.

So those who caused the crisis are forcing those who didn’t to pay for it. That's the blatant injustice at he heart of this debate. It is a con, a 'Con-Dem con'.

The rich and all their kept politicians now insist on two ‘fundamental truths’. First that there is no alternative to inflicting lacerating cuts in our vital public services like health, education , transport, housing and care if we are to reduce our debts.The second is equally false that ‘we are all in this together’.

We could self evidently do much to avoid the cuts. We could own the banks profits, not just its losses. We could take their huge profits and obscene bonuses and invest them in services for us all. We could cancel plans to threaten the world with nuclear annihilation. We can bring home our soldiers from Afghanistan and end our pointless occupation. We could, and should, part company with the private firms who own our hospitals, schools, prisons and roads. We can make the rich pay their fair share of tax for a change.

But we don’t hear any politicians on Glen Campbell's panel make such suggestions, do we? No they all say we [but not them] must make sacrifices. Working people must be paid off. Jobs must be surrendered, houses repossessed and living standards must plummet.

The fact is there are plenty alternatives to making millions more unemployed, denying students the chance to study by enforced indebtedness. Homelessness, increased violence and crime and social disintegration are all avoidable. But only if we jettison Labour, Tory, Liberal and SNP politicians who say the cuts are inevitable and working people must suffer. They are all defending the indefensible. Their system got us into this mess and it now insists the victims not the perpetrators must be punished.

It is not a matter of ‘if’ the British people resist but ‘when’, ‘how’ and ‘where’. Watch this space.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Greetings to the new Mayor of Lima: Susana Villaran, Fuerza Social

The Scottish Socialist Party sends greetings and congratulations to comrade Susana Villaran of 'Fuerza Social' on being elected by the people of Lima to serve as their new Mayor. We feel sure you will allow us to share this important victory for the left with you.
We were delighted to learn of your success from comrade Jorge Aliaga who is both a founder member of our party and a rich source of information about the struggle for socialism in Peru. Jorge is our 'Peruvian Scot' and we are delighted to have him. He is here with us in Edinburgh for the next few weeks until he returns again to be with you in Peru.
We were particularly interested to hear of the high regard in which Susana is held in Lima and the success of the 'vaso de leche' programme from some years ago. We had a very similar campaign here in Scotland when, as members of the Scottish Parliament, we introduced a Bill to provide all children in the country with a free school meal. Through this reform was important to us in several ways. It highlighted the dreadful child poverty and social inequality in this small but rich country of Scotland.
BUt equally we were able to show what real tangible difference the SSP can make to the day to day reality of working class life.
We wish Susanna and Fuerza Social every success in the future and look forward to hearing of further improvements you are able to make to the lives of the people of Lima who depend upon you most of all, its poorest and most vulnerable.

In international solidarity

Saludos para el nuevo alcalde de Lima: Susana Villarán, Fuerza Social

El Partido Socialista Ecocés envía saludos y felicitaciones a la camarada Susana Villarán de 'Fuerza Social' al ser elegida por el pueblo de Lima para servir como su nuevo alcalde. Estamos seguros de que nos va a permitir compartir esta importante victoria de la izquierda con ustedes.

Estuvimos encantados de saber de su éxito por el camarada Jorge Aliaga, quien es miembro fundador de nuestro partido y una rica fuente de información acerca de la lucha por el socialismo en el Perú. Jorge es nuestro 'escocés peruano' y estamos encantados de tenerlo. Él está aquí con nosotros en Edimburgo por las próximas semanas hasta que nuevamente regrese a estar con ustedes en el Perú.
Estuvimos particularmente interesados en escuchar de la alta consideración que tiene Susana en Lima y el éxito del programa del 'vaso de leche' desde hace algunos años.

Hemos tenido una campaña muy similar aquí en Escocia cuando, como miembros del Parlamento Escocés, introducimos un Proyecto de Ley para proporcionar a todos los niños en el país, almuerzos gratuitos en los colegios. A través de esta reforma era importante para nosotros denunciar la pobreza y desigualdad social en este país pequeño pero rico que es Escocia. Pero igualmente hemos podido mostrar la diferencia real, tangible, de lo que el Partido Socialista Escocés puede hacer en realidad para mejorar la vida de la clase trabajadora.

Deseamos a Susana Villarán el mayor de los éxitos en el futuro y le deseamos que implemente las nuevas mejoras, capaces de realizarse, para beneficio de la ciudadanía de Lima y sobre todo para los más pobres y vulnerables.


En solidaridad internacional

Friday, 8 October 2010

A senseless war begins Its 10th year ...an address to the nation from President Barack Obama (as reported by Michael Moore)

A Senseless War Begins Its 10th Year ...an address to the nation from President Barack Obama (as reported by Michael Moore)
Thursday, October 7th, 2010
My Fellow Americans:
Nine years ago today we invaded the nation of Afghanistan. I’d just turned 40. I had a Discman and an Oldsmobile and had gotten really into LiveJournal. That was a long time ago. It was so long ago, does anybody remember why we're even there? I think everyone wanted to capture Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice. But he got away sometime in the first month or so. He left. We stayed. Looking back now, that makes no sense.
Needing to find a new reason for the mission, we decided to overthrow the religious extremists who were running Afghanistan. Which we did. Sorta. Unlike Osama, they never left. Why not? Well, they were Afghans, it was their country. And, strangely enough, a lot of other Afghans supported them. To this day, the Taliban only have 25,000 armed fighters. Do you really think an army that tiny could control and suppress a nation of 28 million against their will? What's wrong with this picture? WTF is really going on here?
The truth is, I can't get an answer. My generals can't quite tell me what our mission is. If we went in there to rout out al-Qaeda, well, they're gone too. The CIA tells me there are under 100 of them left in the whole country!
My generals have also admitted the following to me:
1. There is no way we can defeat the Taliban. They enjoy too much popular support in the rural areas, the majority of the country.
2. Even though we've been there nine years, the truth is the Taliban, not us, not the Afghan government, control the country. After nine years, we’ve only completely run the Taliban out of 3% of Afghanistan.
3%!! (Just for reference, it took us only ELEVEN MONTHS after D-Day to entirely defeat the Nazis across all of Europe.)
3. Our troops and their commanders are still trying to learn the language, the culture, the customs of Afghanistan. The fact is, our troops are simply not trusted by the average people (especially after they've killed numerous civilians, either through recklessness or for sport).
4. The Afghan government we installed is corrupt beyond belief. The public does not trust them. President Karzai is on anti-depressants and our advisors tell us he is erratic and loopy on many days. His brother has a friendly relationship with the Taliban and is believed to be a major poppy (heroin) dealer. Heroin poppies are the #1 contributor to the Afghan economy.
The war in Afghanistan is a mess. The insurgency grows -- and why wouldn't it: foreign troops have invaded and occupied their country! The people responsible for 9/11 are no longer there. So why are we? Why are we offering up the lives of our sons and daughters every single day -- for no reason anyone can define.
In fact, the only reason I can see is that this war is putting billions of profits into the pockets of defense contractors. Is that a reason to stay, so Halliburton can post a larger profit this quarter?
It is time for me to bring our troops home -- right now. Not one more American needs to die. Their deaths do not make us safer and they do not bring democracy to Afghanistan.
It is not our mission to defeat the Taliban. That is the job of the Afghan people -- if that is what they choose to do. There are many groups and leaders of countries in this world who are despicable. We are not going to invade 30 countries and remove their regimes. That is not our job.
I am not going to stay in Afghanistan just because we're already there and we haven't "won" yet. There is nothing to win. No one from Genghis Khan to Leonid Brezhnev has been able to win there. So the troops are coming home.
I refuse to participate in scaring the American people with a phony "War on Terror." Are there terrorists? Yes. Will they strike again? Sadly, yes. But these terrorist acts are few and far between and should not dictate how we live our daily lives or make us ignore our constitutional rights. They should never distract us from what our real priorities are in making our country safe and secure: Everyone with a good job, families able to own a home and send their kids to college, universal health care that's coordinated by your elected representative government -- not by greedy, profit-hungry insurance companies. THAT would be true homeland security.
And what about Osama bin Laden? Nine years and we can't find a 6'5" Arab man who apparently is on dialysis? Even after offering $25 million to anyone who will tell us where he is? You don't think someone would have taken us up on that by now?
Here's what I know: Osama bin Laden is a multi-millionaire -- and if there's one thing I've learned about the rich is that they don't live in caves for 9 years. Bin Laden is either dead or hiding out in a place where his money protects him. Or maybe he just went home.
Just like we should do. Now. My condolences to the families of all who died in this war. Most of them signed up after 9/11 and wanted to do their duty because we were attacked. But we were not attacked by a country. We were attacked by a few religious extremists. And you don't defeat a few thugs by shipping halfway around the world thousands of armored vehicles and hundreds of thousands of soldiers. That is just sheer idiocy.
And it ends tonight.
God be with you.
I'm not a Muslim.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

When do we get Labours apology for Afghanistan?

Now that New Labour leader Ed Miliband has apologised for Labour's decision to invade Iraq on a pack of lies will he now also concede that their declaration of war on Afghanistan was also grievously mistaken? After all he knows that Tony Blair repeatedly misled us. Blair said Afghanistan was responsible for the 9/11 bombings when he knew there were in fact no Afghans involved. And the new Labour leader will also be aware that the Taliban offered to hand over Osama Bin Laden to face charges but George Bush refused preferring a US military solution instead.
Labour certainly has a great deal to apologise for on Afghanistan. Over the last 9 years some 50,000 innocent Afghan civilians have perished. We continue to occupy their country against their wishes having imposed a hated and corrupt Government upon them. Some 340 British soldiers have also been killed in a conflict which not only shows no sign of ending but which we were assured would 'make the world a safer place.'!
Our Generals all repeatedly warn that this conflict will last for many years to come. There is surely no one who is taken in by David Cameron or Barack Obama's claims that we can begin bringing our troops back home in 6 months? US General David Petraeus told the BBC's Foreign Affairs Editor John Simpson last month on 'Hard Talk' this claim was at best wishful thinking and at worst simple deceit by two western leaders desperate to appease the huge opposition that exists towards the occupation in both Britain and America.
I know from campaigning on this issue on a weekly basis that public opinion in Britain - already registered at 75% against the war - will not stand for any further deceit. Like David Petraeus I do not expect any meaningful 'draw down' of International Assistance and Security Forces [ISAF] in the immediate future not unless 'the back channel talks' with the Taliban, which Western diplomats have freely admitted they are engaged in, have been making a great deal more progress than recent reports would suggest. Either way if we truly are in the politics of a 'new generation' Ed Miliband should quickly add to his apology over Iraq, and use his new position to push for the withdrawal of British forces from another dishonourable war one which grievously damages Britain's international reputation.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The lost cause that is Afghanistan


Herald foreign affairs editor David Pratt is correct when he writes 'We are losing the war in Afghanistan. The mission is lost' ['Now civil war looms for the lost cause that is Afghanistan' Herald 17/9/10] and the reasons for this looming defeat have been obvious for some time. Uppermost among them is the fact that the USA and Britain are occupying a country who doesn't want us to be there. The majority of Afghanistan's 33million citizens now see Britain and American soldiers as armies of occupation. The origins of this view lie in Tony Blair's decision to invade Afghanistan in 2001 claiming they were responsible for the 9/11 attacks. He knew then, as we know now, not a single Afghan was involved. He also knew the Taliban had offered to hand over Bin Laden for trial three times but George Bush preferred 'a military solution'. So Britain invaded a country guilty of no crime, has occupied it for the best part of a decade and some 50,000 innocent Afghan civilians have now been killed. No wonder they don't want us to be there!
The insurgency is winning in Afghanistan because Britain and the US, in time honoured colonial fashion, alienated the population by installing a corrupt and illegitimate puppet regime with Hamid Karzai at its head, despised by its citizens.
All the polls in this country highlight the lack of confidence the UK population have in the political leaders as 75% want to see the troops brought back home. Why, people increasingly ask, should another 340 British soldiers die in this shameful war. They will die, we are told, until the thoroughly discredited Afghan army and police force can take over. There is in reality no such thing as a National army or police force in Afghanistan only local militias and paramilitaries loyal to the various warlords and gangsters who pay their wages. All the parties at Westminster who prop up this futile 'handover strategy' are well aware of the 'back channels' opened up to the Taliban leadership just as they were with the IRA in the 1980's. So the conclusion David Pratt rightly poses is that Britain's legacy to Afghanistan is the same blood curdling civil war which followed the Soviet withdrawal of the 1980's.
The Scottish Socialist Party in contrast to the Westminster parties campaigns to bring home the troops. If Afghanistan is to prosper as a democratic and stable country the future rests with people like the remarkable Afghan MP Malalai Joya -one of the very few actually elected. She campaigns for a democratic, multi-ethnic Afghanistan and she asks of people who share her vision that we first of all withdraw all foreign forces from her country.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

SSP recruitment- four new members welcomed into SSP in Edinburgh

I had the thrill of welcoming four new members into the Scottish Socialist Party this week. Alan, Justyna, Jon and James attended their first branch meeting in Edinburgh on Thursday and it was great to have them along. The picture above shows them discussing the situation in the West Bank which was introduced by Robbie and Lynn from the Midlothian branch who have just returned from a Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign delegation there.
Alan and James live in the Liberton/Gilmerton area and joined as a result of our work in the Council by-election there. Justyna and Jon approached us - on different days - at our city centre stall which we conduct weekly against the occupation of Afghanistan.
Each of them had their own different reasons for joining the SSP of course but they all mentioned how pleased they were and favourably impressed by the fact that I had contacted them within hours of them expressing an interest in the party.
This approach to each new 'contact' is vitally important for the SSP. If someone expresses an interest we must treat it with the utmost urgency. For me the future of the SSP depends heavily on the people who have not yet joined the party. As soon as I hear someone wants to join I give them a call. I explain to them how delighted we are to hear of their interest and I ask what it was that led them to contact us. This is vitally important intelligence for the SSP not least because it shows what aspects of our message are being heard.
I then arrange to meet them as soon as possible to discuss what the party is doing, our immediate priorities and how best they can get involved.
This is the approach that has led me to recruit scores of people to the socialist movement over more the years. I want people who contact us to feel wanted and important, because they are absolutely vital to the rebuilding of the SSP. We need their help urgently and we are determined to find a place for them in our party.
The SSP has recruited more than two dozen members in Edinburgh this past year and for me that is not all there is, it merely hints at the enormous potential that is out there.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Unmistakable signs of progress for SSP in Edinburgh by election contest

The results of the Liberton / Gilmerton by election for Edinburgh City Council, where I stood as the SSP candidate, were declared on Friday :-
[1st preference votes] LABOUR 2,974
SNP 1,382
TORY 1,020
LIB/DEM 722
GREEN 201
SSP 169
Ind 128
Ind 43
Turnout was just 28%.
The by-election was caused by the resignation of the sitting Labour councillor after he became the MP for Edinburgh South in May.
Labour's resounding victory was very much what we expected and the low turnout was no surprise either. Labour's success is explained by two important factors. First they benefited from the overwhelming anti-Tory mood which has gripped Scotland since May and second the SNP /Lib Dem coalition which runs Edinburgh City Council is profoundly unpopular after closing a very popular primary school in the area. Labour, somewhat hypocritically it has to be said, toured the ward campaigning on a 'NO Cuts' programme. I say hypocritical because Labour ran Edinburgh Cuty Council for 20 years until 2007 and carried out more cuts to services than any other party. Furthermore if they were in charge at the City Chambers today there is not a scintilla of doubt they would be making cuts every bit as vicious as their SNP/Lib Dem colleagues. But the fact is it's the SNP /Lib Dem coalition who are in charge and are making the cuts. They have also threatened to privatise the refuse collection services and cut other public services here with hundreds of jobs to be axed.
Support for the Lib Dems and the SNP has plummeted accordingly. The SNP topped the poll in this [multi-member] ward in 2007 now they are miles behind Labour. Most of the Lib Dems support also went to Labour in the by-election although about a third went to the Tories.
The Scottish Socialist Party vote [at 2.5%] was not great. We were entitled to hope for far more. However, it was where we expected it to be and is actually higher than we got the last time I stood in 2007. We fought a very creditable campaign. We deliver three excellent leaflets to each one of the 10,000 households in the ward. We festooned the constituency with lamp posters and we recruited new members to the party. Additionally we were able to give dozens of party members invaluable experience in contesting elections ahead of next years Holyrood poll. We can certainly be pleased to have accomplished our central goals of raising the party's banner and programme in this area. Whilst we were not able to persuade people that our opposition to cuts in services in this city is, unlike all our opponents, unblemished. Neither were we able to compete with the financial resources of the other parties. On the other hand we did make significant advances in many ways and just as I would not want to be accused to talking up a very low vote neither will I be found guilty of underestimating important advances. The truth is there are several reasons to be optimistic about the future for the SSP not the least of them being the enormously encouraging sight of hundreds [yes hundreds] of Labour second preference votes [where they were expressed ] which we saw going to us at the count on Friday morning. Whilst it is certainly true that many Labour 2nd preferences went to the SNP there was nowhere near as many as went to us. This was enormously encouraging because if we can persuade Labour voters to give us their second preferences next May in the Holyrood elections - still a big if I realise across the Lothians - then we have more than a fighting chance of winning back our seat in the Scottish Parliament.
So to all those SSP members who came to Liberton/Gilmerton to help in the campaign these past three weeks I say a big thank you, I appreciate your help and above all keep your eyes on the prize!

Monday, 6 September 2010

Salmond's surrender on Independence opens the door for the SSP

My dad used to say 'if you have a reputation for getting up at 6am you can sleep in until noon'. I am reminded of that advice when I hear hired media 'luvvies' extol Alex Salmond apparently unassailable political 'shrewdness'. Today he 'threw in the towel' on his long awaited Bill promising a referendum on Independence. The decision is even admired in some media quarters as 'statesmanlike and strategic' as it avoids certain defeat. However his announcement comes the same day a BMRB-TNS opinion poll shows the SNP trailing New Labour by 10 percentage points. This would see Iain Grey, sorry that should be Gray, become the next First Minister!
When you look at the mess the Labour Party in Scotland got into on the referendum issue, being against it, then for it, and then against it again under three consecutive leaders, it is perhaps even more remarkable how poorly Alex Salmond has played his hand here.
Last year he 'pulled' the Bill to abolish the Council tax in Scotland despite having a majority of public opinion behind him. And this year SNP Councils across Scotland have made cuts to services as bad as any other party despite being elected on a 'no cuts' platform. His claim in 2007 to be Scotland's 'progressive' alternative to New Labour lies in tatters.
Salmond's abandonment of the referendum comes as no surprise of course. It was certainly long anticipated 'in this parish', but it is still a humiliating climbdown. The polls suggest only 30% of Scots support independence, it's true, but that's not the point. Salmond did little these past 3 years to inspire and lead that constituency preferring a 'managerial' reign as First Minister. Nicola Sturgeon [tipped to take over as SNP leader within the year] is today left to claim that dumping the referendum allows for even greater democracy. Her blusters that now 'the people get to decide' the matter in the 2011 elections are palpably ridiculous. The referendum was supposed to offer the 'people' their chance to decide the matter free from all other competing issues.
The 2011 election will be dominated by the impact of the most savage economic recession in 80 years and the consequent cuts to jobs and services. The unionist parties will claim that Scotland will again be 'bailed out by the UK Treasury.'
All this affords the Scottish Socialist Party the chance to make the case for independence with renewed vigour and to tap into the mood for independence, albeit a majority, with a vision and a passion for a socialist Scotland where Scots have control of our own finances and destiny and where working people will be economically, socially, politically and culturally better off.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

SSP selects Lothians list for Holyrood

SSP members in the Lothians this week became the first in the country to select candidates for next year's Scottish Parliament elections.

I am delighted and proud to be leading a strong list of candidates; myself, Catriona Grant, Laura Bennison, Raphie De Santos, Andy McPake and Barbara Scott. We were elected at a selection conference in Edinburgh last weekend.

Each of us accepts we face a daunting challenge to get an MSP elected from the Lothians in 2011 but we are convinced nonetheless that Scotland needs Socialist MSPs more than ever. And who is to say that the election success will not happen when such dramatic changes to the country’s political landscape are clearly now under way. Most people accept that the Scottish Parliament has been a poorer place without the SSP these past 3 years. There has been no one there standing up for the most vulnerable in society as we did. There has been no one explaining that the worst economic crisis in 80 years was caused by the greed and recklessness of finance capital. Neither has there been anyone speaking out against Britain’s senseless occupation of Afghanistan and in favour of bringing home our troops.

With the Tories lacerating the public sector in Scotland it takes the SSP to point out that these services are barely adequate as it is without slashing billions of pounds from their budgets.

Edinburgh is the second richest in Britain after London and the real scandal concerns the distribution of that wealth. We intend to redistribute the enormous wealth of this city and this country to those most in need first of all and all our policies are designed towards that priority. That’s what makes the SSP unique and so vital for Scotland’s future well being. Our vision of an independent socialist Scotland is increasingly supported by significant sections of society.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

An Australian Republic and a Scottish one too

I was struck by this story on the radio and newspapers today.
'Australia should drop its ties to the British monarchy when this Queen dies and move to a republic' said Prime Minister Julia Gillard campaigning in Queensland today ahead of next weeks General election.
What a good idea and something Scotland should emulate.
Strange as it may seem the issue is highly contentious in Australia. Gillard's opponent in the election, Liberal Party leader Tony Abbot, is a staunch monarchist. He supports the existing constitutional arrangements which have, according to him, 'worked well in the past and can continue to work well in the future.'
I say strange because it highlights how much Australia, despite recent strengthening of relations with South East Asian, has not shaken off her colonial past.
It all reminds me of a speaking tour I undertook in Australia during November 2003 shortly after being elected to the Scottish Parliament. I was struck then how ridiculous that year's referendum on the monarchy must have seemed to millions of Australian Aboriginals, or citizens of Melbourne living within the world's second biggest Greek population after Athens, or the huge population from the former Yugoslavia to say nothing of the Irish. And in Sydney, Australia's biggest city, with its burgeoning Chinese and South East Asian communities, how ludicrous it must have seemed to hear how they should 'tug a forelock to the feudal Queen, her heirs and successors'.
In 2003 Australia's crafty monarchists were able to stir up more contempt for the new Constitutional proposals to counter the huge majority for a republic.
I remember telling audiences from Hobart to Brisbane that on behalf of the people of Scotland I was instructed to say if they wanted the Queen so much they could have her. They were mightily impressed by the 6 SSP MSP's refusal to swear an oath of allegiance before taking our seats at Holyrood.

Monday, 2 August 2010

By-election in Edinburgh South

I am delighted to have been selected as the Scottish Socialist Party's candidate to fight the forthcoming City Council by-election in the Liberton/Gilmerton ward of Edinburgh.
I live in the area and have been an active campaigner here for the past 15 years. This ward is amongst the poorest in the city and it has been deprived of investment and support for many years. If Edinburgh is the second richest city in Britain then you wouldn't know it living in the Liberton/Gilmerton ward.
SSP activists were out across the constituency this afternoon delivering the first of our election materials. The by-election arises because the sitting Labour Councillor was elected as the MP in May.
Labour are hot favourites to retain the seat at this stage but it will be interesting to see how the SNP and Liberals do given the fact they run the City Council and have implemented many unpopular cuts in services in this area recently. Uppermost was their disgraceful decision to close Burdiehouse Primary School against the wishes of local parents and thus ripping the heart out of this already disadvantaged community.
Of course further interest will also focus on how much anger is directed at the Liberal Democrats for going into coalition with the Tories at Westminster. This by-election is the first test of public opinion since Clegg 'rowed in' with the Tories.
For the SSP the key issues will be our commitment to scrap the hated Council tax, to oppose the cuts agenda of all other parties and to re-iterate the need to distribute the enormous wealth Edinburgh has from better off to those most in need.
Finally the SSP will not shirk from making the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan a central issue in this election. I believe Edinburgh City Council could do much to reflect the democratic wishes of the majority in this area who want to see our troops brought home from Afghanistan and this pointless occupation at last brought to an ends after 9 years.
I am looking forward to pressing the socialist case in this by-election over the next 6 weeks and I am confident our message is increasingly falling on fertile ground.
I intend to keep regular readers of my blog fully informed of all the twists and turns in this selection.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Get along to the Edinburgh People's Festival Saturday August 7th - 14th

It's astonishing to think that this is our 9th Edinburgh People's festival. Over the years we have presented some absolutely wonderful and ground breaking shows. Our first evening in the Jack Kane Centre in Craigmillar back in 2002 still fills me with huge pride as it clearly proved to be the engine for future progress and development. Our scintillating concert inside Saughton prison which featured comedian Mark Thomas and Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six also springs quickly to mind as does Nancy Cartwrights afternoon entertaining the kids in the Royal Infirmary with our 'Bart Comes to the Simpsons' show stopper. Then there is our Hamish Henderson Memorial lectures, our award winning exhibition telling the story of the original People's Festivals back in the 1950's, our fine arts competition and not forgetting our superb sell-out comedy nights at the BMC Club in Gorgie.

We continue to challenge the official festivals to come out into the real world, into Edinburgh's indigenous communities instead of clinging desperately to 4 mega venues in the city centre and to present shows everyone can afford.

This years People's Festival programme again breaks new ground. We open on Saturday 7th with a remarkable film premiere. It's a drama set in Edinburgh's schemes and featuring local actors. ‘MORTICIA’ is the story of a little girl whose only ambition is to be a vampire. Written, produced and directed by the highly acclaimed and multi talented local film maker Nabil Shaban this film will be shown inside the graveyard of St Cuthbert’s Church off Lothian Road. The film starts at 9pm. Tickets are £4.00.
On Sunday [8th] we again present local historian Allan Armstrong leads a sedate walking tour around Edinburgh’s remarkable, radical past. This is the side of Scotland's Capital that no other tour reveals. It's revolutionary underbelly, the Edinburgh of Thomas Muir, of James Connolly and the political Robert Burns plus many other less well known but equally important radicals. Tour starts at 2pm from outside ‘The Last Drop’ pub in the Grassmarket. Returns 2 hours later.FREE
And on Monday [9th] we continue our walking tour theme this time 'Investigating Rebus’s Edinburgh'. Colin Brown’s award winning tour of those places made famous by Ian Rankin’s fictional detective John Rebus begins outside The Royal Oak public house at 6.30pm and ends- unless unforeseen and villainous events ensue - 2 hours later at the same location.FREE
Tuesday 10th sees us open 'The bad and the beautiful' a photographic exhibition introducing the arresting images of Edinburgh’s rising photographic talent Paul Jordan from Oxgangs. This is the official opening of Paul's most recent exhibition. The show runs from 1st August to 5th September and our official opening is at ‘The Wash’, at the top of the Mound 7pm.FREE
In 2008 we initiated the Hamish Henderson Memorial Lecture and this year we are delighted to announce that the third annual lecture will be delivered by the former West of Scotland MSP and independence fighter Campbell Martin. He will contend that the themes Hamish Henderson believed in most of all, internationalism, independence and anti-imperialism continue to be central causes in today's world. Event takes place in 'Word Power' Book shop in West Richmond Street at 7pm. FREE
And to show that Hamish's internationalism and anti-imperialism is not something we simply pay lip service to we present on Thursday night [12th] our 'Aid for Afghanistan' concert. Musical entertainment is provided first by the fabulous David 'Brucey' Bruce and then The Irresistible Urges. The evening is part of the campaign to bring home British troops from Afghanistan and all proceeds go to the Malalai Joya Foundation which is a democratic, secular and progressive organisation in Afghanistan opposed to both imperialism and religious fundamentalism. Concert takes place in the Valley Park Community Centre, Burdiehouse and begins at 7pm. FREE [Donations on the door]
Friday 13th sees us back in Gorgie at the comedy night to beat them all. Friday the 13th! Unlucky for some perhaps but not for those with tickets to this fantastic night at the BMC Club in Gorgie! This will be our 6th consecutive year at the BMC and this evening was booked for us last August and promises to be better than ever. Featuring 4 of the best comics in Edinburgh courtesy of The Stand Comedy Club our advice is to get there early as it was a sell out in 2009. BMC Club, Westfield Street. Show starts 7.30pm Tickets £4.00.
And our grand finale this year is certainly grand, a stage show on Saturday 14th with Spartaki Theatre Company. Four wonderful pieces of drama from Dalkeith playwright Cecilia Granger. Produced by Karen Douglas and set in the wonderfully atmospheric location of Inch House. This dramatic programme in full costume represents a first for the People's Festival, a full scale theatrical production.
Inch House, Inch Park, off Gilmerton Road. Doors open at 7pm show starts at 7.30pm.Tickets £4.00

For further details of all the shows and to buy tickets visit our website at www.edinburghpeoplesfestival.org

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Cameron's catastrophic cuts: only the acquiescence of New Labour and SNP is 'inevitable'

I can't make my mind up whether I am angrier at David Cameron and his savage cuts to public services or the equally useless New Labour/SNP opposition.
It really should be a clear cut decision I admit after all posh boy Dave is behind the most grievous assault on working people seen in decades. Not since the days of his 'beloved Margaret' [Thatcher] have we witnessed such naked class brutality and destruction of working class communities. The latest Eton schoolboy ensconced in Number Ten intends to protect the privileged elite who continue to enjoy the spoils the British economy incessantly provides them. Not for them the hardships planned for the 'proles'!
But you would have to have a heart of stone not to be equally furious at an inept opposition North and South of the Border who, in the face of such Tory and Liberal brutality, declare 'These are the wrong cuts at the wrong time.'?
My god almighty! I mean it would be one thing if they were suggesting an end to the senseless war in Afghanistan or the obscene nuclear weapons stockpile or cutting tax evasion conducted by the rich or better still ending pensioner poverty and child hardship. But they are not. The words above were uttered by SNP Finance Minister John Swinney and could easily have belonged to any one of the 5 Labour 'leadersheep' contenders.
Cameron's crime is clear cut. He is out to strangle much needed and essential services with the most vulnerable bearing the brunt as usual. But instead of going for his jugular so to speak by rallying people around a 'no cuts' campaign Labour and SNP politicians simply go along with his onslaught. They are Cameron's accomplices in this criminal injustice. And I suppose we have no right to be surprised. They did tell us they would make the same cuts if they were re-elected. I sat alongside Alastair Darling for example on five hustings podiums in our Edinburgh South West contest and heard him state his own cuts case repeatedly.
No wonder millions of people are angry at this political stitch up. Labour continues to fail working people. Perhaps that is inevitable, but the indisputable fact is these cuts to our essential public services are not. If Britain does have to pay back the £866bn debt run up by New Labour and the bankers then let them pay for it. That's right lets force the banks who continue to run the financial economy on their own terms but with our money make socially just and fair decisions instead. They continue to serve the rich elite who have so far got off scot free for their recklessness and greed these past 25 years. And lets build the real opposition to Cameron and his Con Dem coalition on the kind of programme above, improving the lives of those most in need most of all. It's that kind of approach that Scotland is crying out for not the mutually self serving consensus developed by MPs in the public schools, Oxbridge unions and Palaces of Westminster.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Is NATO finished in Afghanistan?

Below is a copy of the latest article written by Mohammad N Asif, Chair of the Scottish Afghan Society, on the situation in Afghanistan.

"The latest NATO debacle over Afghanistan takes place against the whole background of brute military failure, proving how intractable the crisis really is.
The national security adviser of the world’s greatest superpower is a “clown,” its vice-president a nobody and its president “uncomfortable and intimidated.” With those words the officers around General Stanley McChrystal, the American commander in Afghanistan, engulfed America in a storm as damaging to its war effort as any Taliban raid.
The recent interview in Rolling Stone magazine with General McChrystal and his subsequent sacking only demonstrate the disarray of the US’s Afghan policy. Indeed the implementation of the Obama policy was always doomed to fail. This latest debacle takes place against the whole background of brute military failure, proving how intractable the crisis really is. According to NATO, June has been the worse month for international forces since 2001. The 91st soldier was killed on Sunday and 311 young British soldiers have already died as a result of the lies of Bush, Blair, Obama, Brown and now David Cameron.
Cameron believes that Afghanistan is the source of terrorism and as such, Britain should stay for another five years, killing more soldiers and innocent Afghans. Earlier this week the Afghan President met with Sirajudin Haqqani of the Haqqani Group, who is believed to be the strongest man of the Afghan Taliban and who also controls the Pakistani Taliban in Waziristan, with the help of Pakistan’s Army Chief and the ISI Chief. The aim of the meeting was to discuss peace, reconciliation and also safe passage for American and NATO forces from Afghanistan.
President Hamid Karzai has distanced himself from the British and Americans and does not trust them as partners in peace. He openly talks to the Taliban and other resistance groups to strike deals, because he does not believe that the US is willing to do what it takes to defeat the Taliban.
The US and its allies are actively looking for an exit strategy. But this search is fraught with difficulties, for the following reasons. Firstly, the imperial powers would have to explain to their citizens that their power and might are intact and that they cannot be beaten by a bunch of tribesmen. The problem is, the exit itself, unless plausibly linked to political and military progress, would prove the opposite.
Secondly, withdrawing “empty-handed” would mean having to explain the deaths of thousands of soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan and also the financial losses in Afghanistan. At present the Taliban and other resistance groups have a presence in more than 80 percent of Afghanistan. International forces are not even able to control southern Afghanistan. Out of 34 provinces and more than 360 districts, only eight towns are relatively safe in the whole of the country.
The central contradiction is that while they talk about exiting—because all the evidence points to the failure of NATO in Afghanistan—they are planning escalation.
What have NATO and other illegal occupiers achieved so far in Afghanistan since 2001? Have they killed Osama, Mullah Omar and others? Look at the state of the reconstruction effort, hospitals, schools and other development projects for ordinary Afghans. If the West brought democracy, prosperity, jobs and employment to the Afghans I am sure the Afghans would have hugged them and kissed them for helping to rebuild their lives.
Instead they bombed ordinary and helpless people and turned them into enemies. There was never any respect for their culture, religion and way of life; they have been driven out of their houses. NATO then expects them to welcome them in their country.
It is no longer a fight between the West and the Taliban and other resistance groups. The fight has shifted to the national level, where now almost 80 percent of the population want the US and NATO out of Afghanistan as soon as possible.
It is no longer a Taliban struggle but has become almost similar to the Russian occupation, where nearly every Afghan sees you as their enemy. The best example of this is the Kandahar operation which was planned to take place this month, but now seems to be in shambles as the Afghan President and most importantly the people of Kandahar do not want it to happen.
According to a US army survey, more than 86 percent of people are opposed to the plan and almost 80 percent think that the Taliban are their brothers. People do not want a repeat of the Marjah operation in Kandahar, where people were driven from their homes and Taliban not defeated.
The only option which is open to the West is to negotiate with the enemy and save face in an honorable exit. The British Army Chief openly supports talks with the enemy, after killing more than 80,000 innocent Afghans and also 311 British soldiers. General Richards said we must negotiate with the Taliban and other groups in Afghanistan: “From my own, and this is a purely private view, I think there’s no reason why we shouldn't be looking at that sort of thing pretty soon.” The time for this exit has not only arrived, it is overdue."

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Scottish Socialist Party vindicated as predicted job losses reach 120,000

During the recent General election campaign the Scottish Socialist Party warned that all our political opponents were planning job cuts in Scotland on a scale not seen in 25 years. We accused Labour, Conservatives, Lib-Dems and SNP candidates of concealing their intention to make ordinary working people and their families pay terribly for the economic and financial collapse the banks and government had precipitated. Of course all four of these neo-liberal, warmongering, capitalist parties vehemently denied this charge and the electorate was left to make up its own mind.
Now a study of the Scottish economy published by the highly influential Fraser of Allander Institute at Strathclyde University in Glasgow has reported that 120,000 jobs will go in Scotland over the next 5 years as the economy again contracts and the new CON-Dem Governments swingeing cuts in public spending take effect. Professor Brian Ashcroft the Institutes's chief economist concludes today that Scotland will fall back into recession this year and remain there throughout 2011. He forecasts the Scottish economy will stagnate for another year with growth in 2011 barely reaching 0.1%. Some 97,000 people in the public sector will lose their jobs and a further 37,000 in the private sector will join them in the ever lengthening dole queues.
'These cuts are absolutely inevitable' say the four neo-liberal capitalist parties in Scotland. New Labour appears to condemn the CON-DEM cuts but is in fact involved in a masquerade which sees them try to fool those gullible enough not to listen closely to what it is actually saying. Look at this quote attributed to Finance spokesman Andy Kerr in today's Glasgow Herald regarding the Fraser of Allander conclusions. 'This report' he says 'is absolutely damning. It confirms that the Thatcherite cuts agenda being pursued by the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition is dangerous, unnecessary and unfair.' Indeed they are Andy, however Labour 'speaks with forked tongue' here because neither Kerr nor Alastair Darling are against slashing jobs and brutal public spending cuts. They argue 'the Thatcherite cuts agenda' is 'dangerous, unnecessary and unfair' but suggest similar swingeing attacks of their own!
I sat beside Alastair Darling several times at hustings in the Edinburgh South West election campaign. I heard him repeatedly and specifically warn audiences that there would have to be cuts, should his party be re-elected, as vicious as anything Mrs Thatcher introduced in the early 80's. So lets be absolutely clear here Labour are not against annihilating public services in this country and throwing millions of people across Britain onto the dole. Oh, they would rather not do so, I'm sure, but since the country's capitalist economy demands it they will do it and do it loyally as the lackeys to the so called 'free market' they are.
What a dreadful bunch of hypocrites New Labour are then. But surely then the SNP will be able to exploit that political position after all they trounced Labour in the Scottish Parliament elections of 2007 and the Euro elections of 2009? But no, the SNP are also in favour of making working people pay for the financial and economic collapse they had nothing to do with. The SNP also aim to perpetrate the same dangerous, unnecessary and unfair attacks on working people. John Swinney their Finance Secretary in the Scottish Government in the same Herald article quoting Andy Kerr says 'these spending cuts are too early and too deep'. Too early and too deep! So he is by inference in favour of annihilating our public services and the jobs of 120,000 people but not just yet and not so quickly!
Surely only those who don't want to see can't make out the very obvious conclusion here? Scotland needs the party that says no to cuts in public services more than ever. The vast majority of the population are now waking up to the odiously unjust and criminally unfair political con that is being worked on them. Apparently all 4 neo-liberal capitalist parties in Scotland intend to ensure those who made the most money out of the reckless, greed motivated short sighted gambling of decades just gone by are to be inoculated from the brutality of the economic recession they caused whilst those who gained nothing throughout are to pay the severest cost via prolonged unemployment, repossessions, appalling levels of public and social service provision, more hardship and misery.
Well I for one have more regard for and faith in the self worth, pride and resistance of the Scottish people.I do not expect them to meekly accept this criminal deceit now being carried out upon them.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Osborne, Clegg and Cameron punish the innocent to let their guilty friends off the hook

I attended a protest on Tuesday evening in the centre of Edinburgh against the blistering assault on the living standards of millions of working class people and their families unveiled in the Government's Budget.
George Osborne is the multi millionaire Chancellor in multi millionaire Prime Minister David Cameron's Government. He sits next to multi-millionaire Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg - public schoolboys all three of them. Their Eton upbringing prepared them for occasions just like this. They will ensure that the living standards of millionaires are protected by sticking the boot into those who didn't go to public school, to Oxbridge, to the city or to the Palace of Westminster, born with a silver spoon in their mouths.
If you don't understand the Budget let me simplify it for you. The rich are working a con on the rest of us. Clegg, Cameron and Osborne propose to protect the bankers and financiers who made a killing on the markets over the past 25 years from being held to account for their reckless,greedy and selfish actions which led to the collapse of the British economy.
The Budgets purpose is to protect those guilty of bankrupting the economy by making all the rest of us pay and pay heavily through unemployment, house repossessions, reduced social and welfare services, financial pain and social deprivation.
Unfairness is not the word to describe this behaviour and political approach, as its criminal.
Capitalism in Britain is in a profound crisis, morally poisoned and rotten to the core its intends to make working people pay.
The die is by no means cast in this conflict it will be a test of the rich and their resolve as well as the resolve of the labour, trade union and socialist movement to stand against the stream.

Monday, 14 June 2010

SSP announces 2011 Holyrood bid

The Scottish Socialist Party National Council yesterday voted to contest the regional list seats in the Scottish Parliament elections next year and to begin the process of selecting candidates, shaping policy priorities and gathering in the necessary resources for the contest immediately.
The decision to contest next year's Holyrood elections underscores the SSP's determination to put our socialist policies before voters. We were successful in getting six MSPs elected in 2003 but the party lost them all at the last Scottish Parliament elections in 2007.
The regional list uses a form of proportional representation to "top-up" the number of MSPs elected through the traditional first-past-the-post constituency system.
As well as adamantly opposing job and service cuts, we will also be campaigning for free public transport, a massive boost to council house building and the scrapping of the hated council tax and its replacement by an income-based Scottish service tax.
As far as we are concerned there has never been a more urgent need for socialists in the Holyrood Parliament as the four big business parties conspire to slash jobs and cut services.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Article on Free public transports

Here below is an article I wrote on Free Public Transports for the Voice.

The Scottish Socialist Party’s National Council meets this weekend to consider proposals to establish a broad based free public transport coalition in Scotland aimed at making it a centrepiece of next years Holyrood election.
Progressive opinion is united as never before on the threat global warming poses to the peoples of the world. It is also agreed on the need for radical united action to deal with the danger and accepts we have to consider far reaching changes to our way of life if we are to defeat it.
We must find ways to generate electricity and power our various modes of transport without burning vast quantities of fossil fuels. The biggest producers of harmful emissions in the world today are coal, gas and oil fired power stations that spew out billions of tonnes of CO2 gases annually. The most pressing challenge then is to develop cleaner ways of generating electricity. Of course finding those solutions is not going to be easy, not when China opens a new coal fired power station every few months, and both Australia and the United States continue to defy demands for greenhouse gas reductions.
Recent set backs with ‘carbon capture’ technology make the prospect of making fossil fuel plants largely inert much less likely. It had been hoped that the Longannet power station in Fife would become the worlds first coal fired plant to store its CO2 underground - under the Forth estuary – but plans were dashed when it emerged the space required had been severely miscalculated and would need storage capacity ‘the size of a small US state’ to be viable. The focus is very much centred on the need to reduce consumption and to develop alternative sources of power from wind, tidal, solar, biomass and other ‘green’ technologies.
Whilst that debate is ongoing attention has shifted to reducing vehicle emissions. Transport is the 2nd largest producer of CO2 emissions and 90% of it comes from cars.
The Scottish Socialist Party has been examining the issue for some time. We are hugely impressed by the experience of the Belgian city of Hasselt, in Flanders. In 1997 the authorities there faced chronic congestion, poor air quality and pressure from the car lobby. But instead of building more roads they decided on a more radical approach. They abolished fares on their entire public transport system. Critics scoffed at them, said it was madness and forecast people would never leave their beloved cars just because the bus was free. Yet in the space of three years passenger numbers in Hasselt increased tenfold from 330,000 in 1996 to 3.7million. The new scheme led to lower pollution as air quality improved. Road accident rates fell, billions were saved on road building programmes and repairs.Social inclusion rates improved markedly. The Mayor of Hasselt Steve Stevaert was so impressed he famously concluded ‘We don’t need any more new roads, we need new thought highways.’
The SSP advocates replicating the remarkable success enjoyed in Hasselt on a nationwide basis by introducing free travel on all buses, trains, Glasgow’s underground system, Edinburgh’s trams and for foot passengers on our ferries. We believe this measure, never conducted on a national basis before, will provide a huge incentive for people to leave their cars at home and in doing so emulate the Hasselt success.
Implementing our proposal would require re-regulation of the buses and establishing a Scottish Bus Group to ensure the system was wholly integrated. Next we’d take our railway network into public ownership and legislate to abolish fares.
The cost of introducing free public transport throughout Scotland would be £1bn; £500m pa, the current income from fares, plus the cost of the new buses, trains and extra infrastructure needed to cope with the greatly increased demand. Of course £1billion is a lot of money. However, these costs would be greatly offset by several factors. The CBI in Scotland for example estimates congestion costs the economy £1.2bn a year. The NHS would save substantially from reduced levels of respiratory illnesses and road traffic accidents. Furthermore 850,000 low paid workers who pay between £50-£100 per month in bus and train fares would also clearly benefit. And this does not even quantify the improvements in the quality of life that follow these outcomes.
However even these financial advantages are outweighed by the climatic benefits to be gained by substantially reducing our CO2 levels. Sir Nicholas Stern chaired the Inter-Governmental Conference on Climate Change and in his conclusion he famously said that ‘The cost of doing nothing is the greatest of all.’
Last month’s Public and Commercial Services union conference in Brighton voted to endorse free public transport as a way of reducing global warming. I addressed the conference and outlined why the Scottish Socialist Party supports the measure as a way reducing CO2 emissions and persuading people to leave their cars at home.
A wide range of organisations now backs the free public transport initiative internationally. The endorsement of Britain’s biggest civil service union is a significant addition.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Solidarity with Gaza demo

The picture below was taken by Edddie at the demonstration on Saturday 5 June in protest at Israel's killing of 9 innocent peace activists on board the Mavi Marmara humanitarian aid to the Gaza Palestinians. It shows me asking people to come and sign the SSP petition to hold Israel to account for her actions and to lift the siege of Gaza.


Friday, 4 June 2010

The world must hold Israel to account for killing peace activists

The world is outraged that peace activists carrying humanitarian aid - food, fuel, medicines and wheelchairs - to Gaza were killed in cold blood aboard their own ship in a premeditated attack by heavily armed Israeli commandos. The deadly assault on innocent civilians is an affront to humankind. The Israeli Government claimed the flotilla of ships were carrying rockets and other ammunition that would be used to fire on Israel. This claim is not only false, it is an insult to peace activists who, unlike the Israeli military, are motivated by a desire to bring peace to all the people's of the Middle East. People throughout the world were rightly horrified at what they saw.
The Scottish Socialist Party demands:
*The Israeli Government is held to account for its actions
*The blockade of Gaza must be lifted forthwith
*The British Government must press Israel to stop building in the occupied territories, this land belongs to the Palestinians
*Justice for the Palestinian people is a prerequisite for peace in the Middle East

Join me on the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign protest this Saturday 5th June 2pm at the foot of the Mount, Edinburgh.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Longstone After School Club Saved

I received the good news that the Longstone After Schoold Club has been saved! This letter below is addressed to me but I would like to extend the thanks to all those who supported this campaign.

Dear Colin
As you have no doubt already heard, our After School Club has been saved!
We have agreed to take on the annual expenditure of £500 which relates to the alarm system and phone lines, and the maintenance of the building shall continue to be under the council's remit.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for all of your support over the past few months, it has been greatly appreciated.
Kindest regards,
Lynsey Nairn
Longstone After School Club

Monday, 24 May 2010

Governements irresponsible public transport strategy

On Friday The Scotsman reported on Government plans to increase train fares by 6% in January. Since the newspaper has a bad habit of not printing my letters here's my reply in full.

I read your transport correspondent Alastair Dalton's report about train fares rising 6.3% ['Rail tickets set to rocket despite 'fair fares' pledge 21/5/10] with a mixture of incredulity and disgust.
On Monday I travelled to Brighton to speak on behalf of the Scottish Socialist Party to the annual conference of the Public and Commercial Services union PCS. My standard class return ticket, booked online and in advance, cost £220. Furthermore with Edinburgh Airport closed on Monday because of the volcanic ash the 10.30am London train resembled those seen only in third world countries. Hundreds of passengers, young and elderly, left crouching in the aisles and in any other available space they could find because there were no seats available. I was one of them. I reserved a seat but gave it up to a young French woman and her infant son who, having visited Edinburgh, were on their way back home.
Despite paying £220 to the Government owned East Coast train company they couldn't even provide me, or hundreds like me, with a seat during the 400 miles journey.
As it happened the speech I gave to the PCS conference outlined the case for free public transport as an effective way to combat the greenhouse gases emitted by motor vehicle exhausts. Described by one learned commentator as 'the boldest and most imaginative response any party has yet suggested to combat climate change' our proposal follows the example set by the Belgian city of Hasselt.
The union voted unanimously to support my proposal.The Governments aim meanwhile is to pass the cost of running our railways to passengers instead of matching the subsidies provided by all our European neighbours. This approach is downright irresponsible and does nothing to persuade people to leave their cars at home.